According to media reports from Russia, captured beluga whales are to be used to guard naval bases, assist military divers and help kill enemy intruders. The move comes as President Putin attempts to boost Russia’s influence in the Arctic.
The reports claim that the beluga’s highly sensitive sonar capability made them potentially suitable for guarding the waters around the entrances to naval facilities. President Putin has re-opened old Soviet military bases in the Arctic in an attempt to claims the right to exploit vast energy resources in the area.
Russian and US armed forces have previously been involved in developing programmes to train seals and dolphins for military service, detecting underwater mines and training to keep enemy swimmers away from warships. However, in 2012, the US military said that it would end its training programme within five years.
Whales and dolphins used for military means are often captured and removed from their family pod. They are then held in captivity unable to travel the distances that they would in the wild each day. Many die from infections, gastric impaction (swallowing a foreign object), pneumonia, spinal fractures or drowning.